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Within an Inch of His Life by Emile Gaboriau

Part 7 out of 12

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M. Galpin for the benefit of the prosecution. Would he find out any
thing? We can but hope so. I know detectives, who, by the aid of
smaller material, have unravelled far deeper mysteries."

Grandpapa Chandore, excellent M. Seneschal, Dr. Seignebos, and even M.
Magloire, were literally drinking in the words of the Paris lawyer.

"Is that all, gentlemen?" he continued. "By no means! Thanks to his
great experience, Dr. Seignebos had, on the very first day,
instinctively guessed who was the most important personage of this
mysterious drama."


"Exactly, Cocoleu. Whether he be actor, confident, or eye-witness,
Cocoleu has evidently the key to this mystery. This key we must make
every effort to obtain from him. Medical experts have just declared
him idiotic; nevertheless, we protest. We claim that the imbecility of
this wretch is partly assumed. We maintain that his obstinate silence
is a vile imposture. What! he should have intelligence enough to
testify against us, and yet not have left enough of it now to explain,
or even to repeat his evidence? That is inadmissible. We maintain that
he keeps silent now just as he spoke that night,--by order. If his
silence was less profitable for the prosecution, they would soon find
means to break it. We demand that such means should be employed. We
demand that the person who has before been able to loosen his tongue
should be sent for, and ordered to try the experiment over again. We
call for a new examination by experts: we cannot judge all of a
sudden, and in forty-eight hours, what is the true mental condition of
a man, especially when that man is suspected of being an impostor. And
we require, above all, that these new experts should be qualified by
knowledge and experience."

Dr. Seignebos was quivering with excitement. He heard all his own
ideas repeated in a concise, energetic manner.

"Yes," he cried, "that is the way to do it! Let me have full power,
and in less than a fortnight Cocoleu is unmasked."

Less expansive, the eminent advocate of Sauveterre simply shook hands
with M. Folgat, and said,--

"You see, M. de Boiscoran's case ought to be put in your hands."

The young lawyer made no effort to protest. When he began to speak,
his determination was already formed.

"Whatever can humanly be done," he replied, "I will do. If I accept
the task, I shall devote myself body and soul to it. But I insist upon
it, it is understood, and must be publicly announced, that M. Magloire
does not withdraw from the case, and that I act only as his junior."

"Agreed," said the old advocate.

"Well. When shall we go and see M. de Boiscoran?"

"To-morrow morning."

"I can, of course, take no steps till I have seen him."

"Yes, but you cannot be admitted, except by a special permission from
M. Galpin; and I doubt if we can procure that to-day."

"That is provoking."

"No, since we have our work all cut out for to-day. We have to go over
all the papers of the proceedings, which the magistrate has placed in
my hands."

Dr. Seignebos was boiling over with impatience. He broke in,--

"Oh, what words! Go to work, Mr. Advocate, to work, I say. Come, shall
we go?"

They were leaving the room when M. de Chandore called them back by a
gesture. He said,--

"So far, gentlemen, we have thought of Jacques alone. And Dionysia?"

The others looked at him, full of surprise.

"What am I to day if she asks me what the result of M. Magloire's
interview with Jacques has been, and why you would say nothing in her

Dr. Seignebos had confessed it more than once: he was no friend of

'You will tell her the truth," was his advice.

"What? How can I tell her that Jacques has been the lover of the
Countess Claudieuse?"

"She will hear of it sooner or later. Miss Dionysia is a sensible,
energetic girl."

"Yes; but Miss Dionysia is as ignorant as a holy angel," broke in M.
Folgat eagerly, "and she loves M. de Boiscoran. Why should we trouble
the purity of her thoughts and her happiness? Is she not unhappy
enough? M. de Boiscoran is no longer kept in close confinement. He
will see his betrothed, and, if he thinks proper, he can tell her. He
alone has the right to do so. I shall, however, dissuade him. From
what I know of Miss Chandore's character, it would be impossible for
her to control herself, if she should meet the Countess Claudieuse."

"M. de Chandore ought not to say any thing," said M. Magloire
decisively. "It is too much already, to have to intrust the
marchioness with the secret; for you must not forget, gentlemen, that
the slightest indiscretion would certainly ruin all of M. Folgat's
delicate plans."

Thereupon all went out; and M. de Chandore, left alone, said to

"Yes, they are right; but what am I to say?"

He was thinking it over almost painfully, when a maid came in, and
told him that Miss Dionysia wanted to see him.

"I am coming," he said.

And he followed her with heavy steps, and trying to compose his
features so as to efface all traces of the terrible emotions through
which he had passed. The two aunts had taken Dionysia and the
marchioness to the parlor in the upper story. Here M. de Chandore
found them all assembled,--the marchioness, pale and overcome,
extended in an easy-chair; but Dionysia, walking up and down with
burning cheeks and blazing eyes. As soon as he entered, she asked him
in a sharp, sad voice,--

"Well? There is no hope, I suppose."

"More hope than ever, on the contrary," he replied, trying to smile.

"Then why did M. De Magloire send us all out?"

The old gentleman had had time to prepare a fib.

"Because M. Magloire had to tell us a piece of bad news. There is no
chance of no true bill being found. Jacques will have to appear in

The marchioness jumped up like a piece of mechanism, and cried,--

"What! Jacques before the assizes? My son? A Boiscoran?" And she fell
back into her chair. Not a muscle in Dionysia's face had moved. She
said in a strange tone of voice,--

"I was prepared for something worse. One may avoid the court."

With these words she left the room, shutting the door so violently,
that both the Misses Lavarande hastened after her. Now M. de Chandore
thought he might speak freely. He stood up before the marchioness, and
gave vent to that fearful wrath which had been rising within him for a
long time.

"Your son," he cried, "your Jacques, I wish he were dead a thousand
times! The wretch who is killing my child, for you see he is killing

And, without pity, he told her the whole story of Jacques and the
Countess Claudieuse. The marchioness was overcome. She had even ceased
to sob, and had not strength enough left to ask him to have pity on
her. And, when he had ended, she whispered to herself with an
expression of unspeakable suffering,--

"Adultery! Oh, my God! what punishment!"


M. Folgat and M. Magloire went to the courthouse; and, as they
descended the steep street from M. de Chandore's house, the Paris
lawyer said,--

"M. Galpin must fancy himself wonderfully safe in his position, that
he should grant the defence permission to see all the papers of the

Ordinarily such leave is given only after the court has begun
proceedings against the accused, and the presiding judge has
questioned him. This looks like crying injustice to the prisoner; and
hence arrangements can be made by which the rigor of the law is
somewhat mitigated. With the consent of the commonwealth attorney, and
upon his responsibility, the magistrate who had carried on the
preliminary investigation may inform the accused, or his counsel, by
word of mouth, or by a copy of all or of part, of what has happened
during the first inquiry. That is what M. Galpin had done.

And on the part of a man who was ever ready to interpret the law in
its strictest meaning, and who no more dared proceed without authority
for every step than a blind man without his staff,--or on the part of
such a man, an enemy, too, of M. de Boiscoran, this permission granted
to the defence was full of meaning. But did it really mean what M.
Folgat thought it did?

"I am almost sure you are mistaken," said M. Magloire. "I know the
good man, having practiced with him for many years. If he were sure of
himself, he would be pitiless. If he is kind, he is afraid. This
concession is a door which he keeps open, in case of defeat."

The eminent counsel was right. However well convinced M. Galpin might
be of Jacques's guilt, he was still very much troubled about his means
of defence. Twenty examinations had elicited nothing from his prisoner
but protestations of innocence. When he was driven to the wall, he
would reply,--

"I shall explain when I have seen my counsel."

This is often the reply of the most stupid scamp, who only wants to
gain time. But M. Galpin knew his former friend, and had too high an
opinion of his mind, not to fear that there was something serious
beneath his obstinate silence.

What was it? A clever falsehood? a cunningly-devised /alibi/? Or
witnesses bribed long beforehand?

M. Galpin would have given much to know. And it was for the purpose of
finding it out sooner, that he had given the permission. Before he
granted it, however, he had conferred with the commonwealth attorney.
Excellent M. Daubigeon, whom he found, as usual, admiring the
beautiful gilt edging of his beloved books, had treated him badly.

"Do you come for any more signatures?" he had exclaimed. "You shall
have them. If you want any thing else, your servant

'When the blunder is made,
It is too late, I tell thee, to come for advice.' "

However discouraging such a welcome might be, M. Galpin did not give
up his purpose. He said in his bitterest tone,--

"You still insist that it is a blunder to do one's duty. Has not a
crime been committed? Is it not my duty to find out the author, and to
have him punished? Well? Is it my fault if the author of this crime is
an old friend of mine, and if I was once upon a time on the point of
marrying a relation of his? There is no one in court who doubts M. de
Boiscoran's guilt; there is no one who dares blame me: and yet they
are all as cold as ice towards me."

"Such is the world," said M. Daubigeon with a face full of irony.
"They praise virtue; but they hate it."

"Well, yes! that is so," cried M. Galpin in his turn. "Yes, they blame
people who have done what they had not the courage to do. The attorney
general has congratulated me, because he judges things from on high
and impartially. Here cliques are all-powerful. Even those who ought
to encourage and support me, cry out against me. My natural ally, the
commonwealth attorney, forsakes me and laughs at me. The president of
the court, my immediate superior, said to me this morning with
intolerable irony, 'I hardly know any magistrate who would be able as
you are to sacrifice his relations and his friends to the interests of
truth and justice. You are one of the ancients: you will rise high.' "

His friend could not listen any further. He said,--

"Let us break off there: we shall never understand each other. Is
Jacques de Boiscoran innocent, or guilty? I do not know. But I do know
that he was the pleasantest man in the world, an admirable host, a
good talker, a scholar, and that he owned the finest editions of
Horace and Juvenal that I have ever seen. I liked him. I like him
still; and it distresses me to think of him in prison. I know that we
had the most pleasant relations with each other, and that now they are
broken off. And you, you complain! Am I the ambitious man? Do I want
to have my name connected with a world-famous trial? M. de Boiscoran
will in all probability be condemned. You ought to be delighted. And
still you complain? Why, one cannot have everything. Who ever
undertook a great enterprise, and never repented of it?"

After that there was nothing left for M. Galpin but to go away. He did
go in a fury, but at the same time determined to profit by the rude
truths which M. Daubigeon had told him; for he knew very well that his
friend represented in his views nearly the whole community. He was
fully prepared to carry out his plan. Immediately after his return, he
communicated the papers of the prosecution to the defence, and
directed his clerk to show himself as obliging as he could. M.
Mechinet was not a little surprised at these orders. He knew his
master thoroughly,--this magistrate, whose shadow he had been now for
so many years.

"You are afraid, dear sir," he had said to himself.

And as M. Galpin repeated the injunction, adding that the honor of
justice required the utmost courtesy when rigor was not to be
employed, the old clerk replied very gravely,--

"Oh! be reassured, sir. I shall not be wanting in courtesy."

But, as soon as the magistrate turned his back, Mechinet laughed

"He would not recommend me to be obliging," he thought, "if he
suspected the truth, and knew how far I am devoted to the defence.
What a fury he would be in, if he should ever find out that I have
betrayed all the secrets of the investigation, that I have carried
letters to and from the prisoner, that I have made of Trumence an
accomplice, and of Blangin the jailer an agent, that I have helped
Miss Dionysia to visit her betrothed in jail!"

For he had done all this four times more than enough to be dismissed
from his place, and even to become, at least for some months, one of
Blangin's boarders. He shivered all down his back when he thought of
this; and he had been furiously angry, when, one evening, his sisters,
the devout seamstresses, had taken it into their heads to say to

"Certainly, Mechinet, you are a different man ever since that visit of
Miss Chandore."

"Abominable talkers!" he had exclaimed, in a tone of voice which
frightened them out of their wits. "Do you want to see me hanged?"

But, if he had these attacks of rage, he felt not a moment's remorse.
Miss Dionysia had completely bewitched him; and he judged M. Galpin's
conduct as severely as she did.

To be sure, M. Galpin had done nothing contrary to law; but he had
violated the spirit of the law. Having once summoned courage to begin
proceedings against his friend, he had not been able to remain
impartial. Afraid of being charged with timidity, he had exaggerated
his severity. And, above all, he had carried on the inquiry solely in
the interests of a conviction, as if the crime had been proved, and
the prisoner had not protested his innocence.

Now, Mechinet firmly believed in this innocence; and he was fully
persuaded that the day on which Jacques de Boiscoran saw his counsel
would be the day of his justification. This will show with what
eagerness he went to the court-house to wait for M. Magloire.

But at noon the great lawyer had not yet come. He was still consulting
with M. de Chandore.

"Could any thing amiss have happened?" thought the clerk.

And his restlessness was so great, that, instead of going home to
breakfast with his sisters, he sent an office-boy for a roll and a
glass of water. At last, as three o'clock struck, M. Magloire and M.
Folgat arrived; and Mechinet saw at once in their faces, that he had
been mistaken, and that Jacques had not explained. Still, before M.
Magloire, he did not dare inquire.

"Here are the papers," he said simply, putting upon the table an
immense box.

Then, drawing M. Folgat aside, he asked,--

"What is the matter, pray?"

The clerk had certainly acted so well, that they could have no secret
from him; and he so was fully committed, that there was no danger in
relying upon his discretion. Still M. Folgat did not dare to mention
the name of the Countess Claudieuse; and he replied evasively,--

"This is the matter: M. de Boiscoran explains fully; but he had no
proofs for his statement, and we are busy collecting proofs."

Then he went and sat down by M. Magloire, who was already deep in the
papers. With the help of those documents, it was easy to follow step
by step M. Galpin's work, to see the efforts he had made, and to
comprehend his strategy.

First of all, the two lawyers looked for the papers concerning
Cocoleu. They found none. Of the statement of the idiot on the night
of the fire, of the efforts made since to obtain from him a repetition
of this evidence, of the report of the experts,--of all this there was
not a trace to be found.

M. Galpin dropped Cocoleu. He had a right to do so. The prosecution,
of course, only keeps those witnesses which it thinks useful, and
drops all the others.

"Ah, the scamp is clever!" growled M. Magloire in his disappointment.

It was really very well done. M. Galpin deprived by this step the
defence of one of their surest means, of one of those incidents in a
trial which are apt to affect the mind of the jury so powerfully.

"We can, however, summon him at any time," said M. Magloire.

They might do so, it is true; but what a difference it would make! If
Cocoleu appeared for M. Galpin, he was a witness for the prosecution,
and the defence could exclaim with indignation,--

"What! You suspect the prisoner upon the evidence of such a creature?"

But, if he had to be summoned by the defence, he became prisoner's
evidence, that is to say, one of those witnesses whom the jury always
suspect; and then the prosecution would exclaim,--

"What do you hope for from a poor idiot, whose mental condition is
such, that we refused his evidence when it might have been most useful
to us?"

"If we have to go into court," murmured M. Folgat, "here is certainly
a considerable chance of which we are deprived. The whole character of
the case is changed. But, then, how can M. Galpin prove the guilt?"

Oh! in the simplest possible manner. He started from the fact that
Count Claudieuse was able to give the precise hour at which the crime
was committed. Thence he passed on immediately to the deposition of
young Ribot, who had met M. de Boiscoran on his way to Valpinson,
crossing the marshes, before the crime, and to that of Gaudry, who had
seen him come back from Valpinson through the woods, after the crime.
Three other witnesses who had turned up during the investigation
confirmed this evidence; and by these means alone, and by comparing
the hours, M. Galpin succeeded in proving, almost beyond doubt, that
the accused had gone to Valpinson, and nowhere else, and that he had
been there at the time the crime was committed.

What was he doing there?

To this question the prosecution replied by the evidence taken on the
first day of the inquiry, by the water in which Jacques had washed his
hands, the cartridge-case found near the house, and the identity of
the shot extracted from the count's wounds with those seized with the
gun at Boiscoran.

Every thing was plain, precise, and formidable, admitting of no
discussion, no doubt, no suggestion. It looked like a mathematical

"Whether he be innocent or guilty," said M. Magloire to his young
colleague, "Jacques is lost, if we cannot get hold of some evidence
against the Countess Claudieuse. And even in that case, even if it
should be established that she is guilty, Jacques will always be
looked upon as her accomplice."

Nevertheless, they spent a part of the night in going over all the
papers carefully, and in studying every point made by the prosecution.

Next morning, about nine o'clock, having had only a few hours' sleep,
they went together to the prison.


The night before, the jailer of Sauveterre had said to his wife, at

"I am tired of the life I am leading here. They have paid me for my
place, have not they? Well, I mean to go."

"You are a fool!" his wife had replied. "As long as M. de Boiscoran is
a prisoner there is a chance of profit. You don't know how rich those
Chandores are. You ought to stay."

Like many other husbands, Blangin fancied he was master in his own

He remonstrated. He swore to make the ceiling fall down upon him. He
demonstrated by the strength of his arm that he was master. But--

But, notwithstanding all this, Mrs. Blangin having decided that he
should stay, he did stay. Sitting in front of his jail, and given up
to the most dismal presentiments, he was smoking his pipe, when M.
Magloire and M. Folgat appeared at the prison, and handed him M.
Galpin's permit. He rose as they came in. He was afraid of them, not
knowing whether they were in Miss Dionysia's secret or not. He
therefore politely doffed his worsted cap, took his pipe from his
mouth, and said,--

"Ah! You come to see M. de Boiscoran, gentlemen? I will show you in:
just give me time to go for my keys."

M. Magloire held him back.

"First of all," he said, "how is M. de Boiscoran?"

"Only so-so," replied the jailer.

"What is the matter?"

"Why, what is the matter with all prisoners when they see that things
are likely to turn out badly for them?"

The two lawyers looked at each other sadly.

It was clear that Blangin thought Jacques guilty, and that was a bad
omen. The persons who stand guard over prisoners have generally a very
keen scent; and not unfrequently lawyers consult them, very much as an
author consults the actors of the theatre on which his piece is to

"Has he told you any thing?" asked M. Folgat.

"Me personally, nothing," replied the jailer.

And shaking his head, he added,--

"But you know we have our experience. When a prisoner has been with
his counsel, I almost always go up to see him, and to offer him
something,--a little trifle to set him up again. So yesterday, after
M. Magloire had been here, I climbed up"--

"And you found M. de Boiscoran sick?"

"I found him in a pitiful condition, gentlemen. He lay on his stomach
on his bed, his head in the pillow, and stiff as a corpse. I was some
time in his cell before he heard me. I shook my keys, I stamped, I
coughed. No use. I became frightened. I went up to him, and took him
by the shoulder. 'Eh, sir!' Great God! he leaped up as if shot and,
sitting up, he said, 'What to you want?' Of course, I tried to console
him, to explain to him that he ought to speak out; that it is rather
unpleasant to appear in court, but that people don't die of it; that
they even come out of it as white as snow, if they have a good
advocate. I might just as well have been singing, 'O sensible woman.'
The more I said, the fiercer he looked; and at last he cried, without
letting me finish, 'Get out from here! Leave me!' "

He paused a moment to take a whiff at his pipe; but it had gone out:
he put it in his pocket, and went on,--

"I might have told him that I had a right to come into the cells
whenever I liked, and to stay there as long as it pleases me. But
prisoners are like children: you must not worry them. But I opened the
wicket, and I remained there, watching him. Ah, gentlemen, I have been
here twenty years, and I have seen many desperate men; but I never saw
any despair like this young man's. He had jumped up as soon as I
turned my back, and he was walking up and down, sobbing aloud. He
looked as pale as death; and the big tears were running down his
cheeks in torrents."

M. Magloire felt each one of these details like a stab at his heart.
His opinion had not materially changed since the day before; but he
had had time to reflect, and to reproach himself for his harshness.

"I was at my post for an hour at least," continued the jailer, "when
all of a sudden M. de Boiscoran throws himself upon the door, and
begins to knock at it with his feet, and to call as loud as he can. I
keep him waiting a little while, so he should not know I was so near
by, and then I open, pretending to have hurried up ever so fast. As
soon as I show myself he says, 'I have the right to receive visitors,
have I not? And nobody has been to see me?'--'No one.'--'Are you
sure?'--'Quite sure.' I thought I had killed him. He put his hands to
his forehead this way; and then he said, 'No one!--no mother, no
betrothed, no friend! Well, it is all over. I am no longer in
existence. I am forgotten, abandoned, disowned.' He said this in a
voice that would have drawn tears from stones; and I, I suggested to
him to write a letter, which I would send to M. de Chandore. But he
became furious at once, and cried, 'No, never! Leave me. There is
nothing left for me but death.' "

M. Folgat had not uttered a word; but his pallor betrayed his

"You will understand, gentlemen," Blangin went on, "that I did not
feel quite reassured. It is a bad cell that in which M. de Boiscoran
is staying. Since I have been at Sauveterre, one man has killed
himself in it, and one man has tried to commit suicide. So I called
Trumence, a poor vagrant who assists me in the jail; and we arranged
it that one of us would always be on guard, never losing the prisoner
out of sight for a moment. But it was a useless precaution. At night,
when they carried M. de Boiscoran his supper, he was perfectly calm;
and he even said he would try to eat something to keep his strength.
Poor man! If he has no other strength than what his meal would give
him, he won't go far. He had not swallowed four mouthfuls, when he was
almost smothered; and Trumence and I at one time thought he would die
on our hands: I almost thought it might be fortunate. However, about
nine o'clock he was a little better; and he remained all night long at
his window."

M. Magloire could stand it no longer.

"Let us go up," he said to his colleague.

They went up. But, as they entered the passage, they noticed Trumence,
who was making signs to them to step lightly.

"What is the matter?" they asked in an undertone.

"I believe he is asleep," replied the prisoner. "Poor man! Who knows
but he dreams he is free, and in his beautiful chateau?"

M. Folgat went on tiptoe to the wicket. But Jacques had waked up. He
had heard steps and voices, and he had just risen. Blangin, therefore,
opened the door; and at once M. Magloire said the prisoner,--

"I bring you reenforcements,--M. Folgat, my colleague, who has come
down from Paris, with your mother."

Coolly, and without saying a word, M. de Boiscoran bowed.

"I see you are angry with me," continued M. Magloire. "I was too quick
yesterday, much too quick."

Jacques shook his head, and said in an icy tone,--

"I was angry; but I have reflected since, and now I thank you for your
candor. At least, I know my fate. Innocent though I be, if I go into
court, I shall be condemned as an incendiary and a murderer. I shall
prefer not going into court at all."

"Poor man! But all hope is not lost."

"Yes. Who would believe me, if you, my friend, cannot believe me?"

"I would," said M. Folgat promptly, "I, who, without knowing you, from
the beginning believed in your innocence,--I who, now that I have seen
you, adhere to my conviction."

Quicker than thought, M. de Boiscoran had seized the young advocate's
hand, and, pressing it convulsively, said,--

"Thanks, oh, thanks for that word alone! I bless you, sir, for the
faith you have in me!"

This was the first time that the unfortunate man, since his arrest,
felt a ray of hope. Alas! it passed in a second. His eye became dim
again; his brow clouded over; and he said in a hoarse voice,--

"Unfortunately, nothing can be done for me now. No doubt M. Magloire
has told you my sad history and my statement. I have no proof; or at
least, to furnish proof, I would have to enter into details which the
court would refuse to admit; or if by a miracle they were admitted, I
should be ruined forever by them. They are confidences which cannot be
spoken of, secrets which are never betrayed, veils which must not be
lifted. It is better to be condemned innocent than to be acquitted
infamous and dishonored. Gentlemen, I decline being defended."

What was his desperate purpose that he should have come to such a

His counsel trembled as they thought they guessed it.

"You have no right," said M. Folgat, "to give yourself up thus."

"Why not?"

"Because you are not alone in your trouble, sir. Because you have
relations, friends, and"--

A bitter, ironical smile appeared on the lips of Jacques de Boiscoran
as he broke in,--

"What do I owe to them, if they have not even the courage to wait for
the sentence to be pronounced before they condemn me? Their merciless
verdict has actually anticipated that of the jury. It was to an
unknown person, to you, M. Folgat, that I had to be indebted for the
first expression of sympathy."

"Ah, that is not so," exclaimed M. Magloire, "you know very well."

Jacques did not seem to hear him. He went on,--

"Friends? Oh, yes! I had friends in my days of prosperity. There was
M. Galpin and M. Daubigeon: they were my friends. One has become my
judge, the most cruel and pitiless of judges; and the other, who is
commonwealth attorney, has not even made an effort to come to my
assistance. M. Magloire also used to be a friend of mine, and told me
a hundred times, that I could count upon him as I count upon myself,
and that was my reason to choose him as my counsel; and, when I
endeavored to convince him of my innocence, he told me I lied."

Once more the eminent advocate of Sauveterre tried to protest; but it
was in vain.

"Relations!" continued Jacques with a voice trembling with indignation
--"oh, yes! I have relations, a father and a mother. Where are they
when their son, victimized by unheard-of fatality, is struggling in
the meshes of a most odious and infamous plot?

"My father stays quietly in Paris, devoted to his pursuits and usual
pleasures. My mother has come down to Sauveterre. She is here now; and
she has been told that I am at liberty to receive visitors: but in
vain. I was hoping for her yesterday; but the wretch who is accused of
a crime is no longer her son! She never came. No one came. Henceforth
I stand alone in the world; and now you see why I have a right to
dispose of myself."

M. Folgat did not think for a moment of discussing the point. It would
have been useless. Despair never reasons. He only said,--

"You forget Miss Chandore, sir."

Jacques turned crimson all over, and he murmured, trembling in all his


"Yes, Dionysia," said the young advocate. "You forget her courage, her
devotion, and all she has done for you. Can you say that she abandons
and denies you,--she who set aside all her reserve and her timidity
for your sake, and came and spent a whole night in this prison? She
was risking nothing less than her maidenly honor; for she might have
been discovered or betrayed. She knew that very well, nevertheless she
did not hesitate."

"Ah! you are cruel, sir," broke in Jacques.

And pressing the lawyer's arm hard, he went on,--

"And do you not understand that her memory kills me, and that my
misery is all the greater as I know but too well what bliss I am
losing? Do you not see that I love Dionysia as woman never was loved
before? Ah, if my life alone was at stake! I, at least, I have to make
amends for a great wrong; but she-- Great God, why did I ever come
across her path?"

He remained for a moment buried in thought; then he added,--

"And yet she, also, did not come yesterday. Why? Oh! no doubt they
have told her all. They have told her how I came to be at Valpinson
the night of the crime."

"You are mistaken, Jacques," said M. Magloire. "Miss Chandore knows

"Is it possible?"

"M. Magloire did not speak in her presence," added M. Folgat; "and we
have bound over M. de Chandore to secrecy. I insisted upon it that you
alone had the right to tell the truth to Miss Dionysia."

"Then how does she explain it to herself that I am not set free?"

"She cannot explain it."

"Great God! she does not also think I am guilty?"

"If you were to tell her so yourself, she would not believe you."

"And still she never came here yesterday."

"She could not. Although they told her nothing, your mother had to be
told. The marchioness was literally thunderstruck. She remained for
more than an hour unconscious in Miss Dionysia's arms. When she
recovered her consciousness, her first words were for you; but it was
then too late to be admitted here."

When M. Folgat mentioned Miss Dionysia's name, he had found the
surest, and perhaps the only means to break Jacques's purpose.

"How can I ever sufficiently thank you, sir?" asked the latter.

"By promising me that you will forever abandon that fatal resolve
which you had formed," replied the young advocate. "If you were
guilty, I should be the first to say, 'Be it so!' and I would furnish
you with the means. Suicide would be an expiation. But, as you are
innocent, you have no right to kill yourself: suicide would be a

"What am I to do?"

"Defend yourself. Fight."

"Without hope?"

"Yes, even without hope. When you faced the Prussians, did you ever
think of blowing out your brains? No! and yet you knew that they were
superior in numbers, and would conquer, in all probability. Well, you
are once more in face of the enemy; and even if you were certain of
being conquered, that is to say, of being condemned, and it was the
day before you should have to mount the scaffold, I should still say,
'Fight. You must live on; for up to that hour something may happen
which will enable us to discover the guilty one.' And, if no such
event should happen, I should repeat, nevertheless, 'You must wait for
the executioner in order to protest from the scaffold against the
judicial murder, and once more to affirm your innocence.' "

As M. Folgat uttered these words, Jacques had gradually recovered his
bearing; and now he said,--

"Upon my honor, sir, I promise you I will hold out to the bitter end."

"Well!" said M. Magloire,--"very well!"

"First of all," replied M. Folgat, "I mean to recommence, for our
benefit the investigation which M. Galpin has left incomplete.
To-night your mother and I will leave for Paris. I have come to ask
you for the necessary information, and for the means to explore your
house in Vine Street, to discover the friend whose name you assumed,
and the servant who waited upon you."

The bolts were drawn as he said this; and at the open wicket appeared
Blangin's rubicund face.

"The Marchioness de Boiscoran," he said, "is in the parlor, and begs
you will come down as soon as you have done with these gentlemen."

Jacques turned very pale.

"My mother," he murmured. Then he added, speaking to the jailer,--

"Do not go yet. We have nearly done."

His agitation was too great: he could not master it. He said to the
two lawyers,--

"We must stop here for to-day. I cannot think now."

But M. Folgat had declared he would leave for Paris that very night;
and he was determined to do so. He said, therefore,--

"Our success depends on the rapidity of our movements. I beg you will
let me insist upon your giving me at once the few items of information
which I need for my purposes."

Jacques shook his head sadly. He began,--

"The task is out of your power, sir."

"Nevertheless, do what my colleague asks you," urged M. Magloire.
Without any further opposition, and, who knows? Perhaps with a secret
hope which he would not confess to himself, Jacques informed the young
advocate of the most minute details about his relations to the
Countess Claudieuse. He told him at what hour she used to come to the
house, what roads she took, and how she was most commonly dressed. The
keys of the house were at Boiscoran, in a drawer which Jacques
described. He had only to ask Anthony for them. Then he mentioned how
they might find out what had become of that Englishman whose name he
had borrowed. Sir Francis Burnett had a brother in London. Jacques did
not know his precise address; but he knew he had important business-
relations with India, and had, once upon a time, been cashier in the
great house of Gilmour and Benson.

As to the English servant-girl who had for three years attended to his
house in Vine Street, Jacques had taken her blindly, upon the
recommendation of an agency in the suburbs; and he had had nothing to
do with her, except to pay her her wages, and, occasionally, some
little gratuity besides. All he could say, and even that he had
learned by mere chance, was, that the girl's name was Suky Wood; that
she was a native of Folkstone, where her parents kept a sailor's
tavern; and that, before coming to France, she had been a chambermaid
at the Adelphi in Liverpool.

M. Folgat took careful notes of all he could learn. Then he said,--

"This is more than enough to begin the campaign. Now you must give me
the name and address of your tradesmen in Passy."

"You will find a list in a small pocket-book which is in the same
drawer with the keys. In the same drawer are also all the deeds and
other papers concerning the house. Finally, you might take Anthony
with you: he is devoted to me."

"I shall certainly take him, if you permit me," replied the lawyer.
Then putting up his notes, he added,--

"I shall not be absent more than three or four days; and, as soon as I
return, we will draw up our plan of defence. Till then, my dear
client, keep up your courage."

They called Blangin to open the door for them; and, after having
shaken hands with Jacques de Boiscoran, M. Folgat and M. Magloire went

"Well, are we going down now?" asked the jailer.

But Jacques made no reply.

He had most ardently hoped for his mother's visit; and now, when he
was about to see her, he felt assailed by all kinds of vague and
sombre apprehensions. The last time he had kissed her was in Paris, in
the beautiful parlor of their family mansion. He had left her, his
heart swelling with hopes and joy, to go to his Dionysia; and his
mother, he remembered distinctly, had said to him, "I shall not see
you again till the day before the wedding."

And now she was to see him again, in the parlor of a jail, accused of
an abominable crime. And perhaps she was doubtful of his innocence.

"Sir, the marchioness is waiting for you," said the jailer once more.
At the man's voice, Jacques trembled.

"I am ready," he replied: "let us go!" And, while descending the
stairs, he tried his best to compose his features, and to arm himself
with courage and calmness.

"For," he said, "She must not become aware of it, how horrible my
position is."

At the foot of the steps, Blangin pointed at a door, and said,--

"That is the parlor. When the marchioness wants to go, please call

On the threshold, Jacques paused once more.

The parlor of the jail at Sauveterre is an immense vaulted hall,
lighted up by two narrow windows with close, heavy iron gratings.
There is no furniture save a coarse bench fastened to the damp, untidy
wall; and on this bench, in the full light of the sun, sat, or rather
lay, apparently bereft of all strength, the Marchioness of Boiscoran.

When Jacques saw her, he could hardly suppress a cry of horror and
grief. Was that really his mother,--that thin old lady with the sallow
complexion, the red eyes, and trembling hands?

"O God, O God!" he murmured.

She heard him, for she raised her head; and, when she recognized him,
she wanted to rise; but her strength forsook her, and she sank back
upon the bench, crying,--

"O Jacques, my child!"

She, also, was terrified when she saw what two months of anguish and
sleeplessness had done for Jacques. But he was kneeling at her feet
upon the muddy pavement, and said in a barely intelligible voice,--

"Can you pardon me the great grief I cause you?"

She looked at him for a moment with a bewildered air; and then, all of
a sudden, she took his head in her two hands, kissed him with
passionate vehemence, and said,--

"Will I pardon you? Alas, what have I to pardon? If you were guilty, I
should love you still; and you are innocent."

Jacques breathed more freely. In his mother's voice he felt that she,
at least, was sure of him.

"And father?" he asked.

There was a faint blush on the pale cheeks of the marchioness.

"I shall see him to-morrow," she replied; "for I leave to-night with
M. Folgat."

"What! In this state of weakness?"

"I must."

"Could not father leave his collections for a few days? Why did he not
come down? Does he think I am guilty?"

"No; it is just because he is so sure of your innocence, that he
remains in Paris. He does not believe you in danger. He insists upon
it that justice cannot err."

"I hope so," said Jacques with a forced smile.

Then changing his tone,--

"And Dionysia? Why did she not come with you?"

"Because I would not have it. She knows nothing. It has been agreed
upon that the name of the Countess Claudieuse is not to be mentioned
in her presence; and I wanted to speak to you about that abominable
woman. Jacques, my poor child, where has that unlucky passion brought

He made no reply.

"Did you love her?" asked the marchioness.

"I thought I did."

"And she?"

"Oh, she! God alone knows the secret of that strange heart."

"There is nothing to hope from her, then, no pity, no remorse?"

"Nothing. I have given her up. She has had her revenge. She had
forewarned me."

The marchioness sighed.

"I thought so," she said. "Last Sunday, when I knew as yet of nothing,
I happened to be close to her at church, and unconsciously admired her
profound devotion, the purity of her eye, and the nobility of her
manner. Yesterday, when I heard the truth, I shuddered. I felt how
formidable a woman must be who can affect such calmness at a time when
her lover lies in prison accused of the crime which she has

"Nothing in the world would trouble her, mother."

"Still she ought to tremble; for she must know that you have told us
every thing. How can we unmask her?"

But time was passing; and Blangin came to tell the marchioness that
she had to withdraw. She went, after having kissed her son once more.

That same evening, according to their arrangement, she left for Paris,
accompanied by M. Folgat and old Anthony.


At Sauveterre, everybody, M. de Chandore as much as Jacques himself,
blamed the Marquis de Boiscoran. He persisted in remaining in Paris,
it is true: but it was certainly not from indifference; for he was
dying with anxiety. He had shut himself up, and refused to see even
his oldest friends, even his beloved dealers in curiosities. He never
went out; the dust accumulated on his collections; and nothing could
arouse him from this state of prostration, except a letter from

Every morning he received three or four,--from the marchioness or M.
Folgat, from M. Seneschal or M. Magloire, from M. de Chandore,
Dionysia, or even from Dr. Seignebos. Thus he could follow at a
distance all the phases, and even the smallest changes, in the
proceedings. Only one thing he would not do: he would not come down,
however important his coming might be for his son. He did not move.

Once only he had received, through Dionysia's agency, a letter from
Jacques himself; and then he ordered his servant to get ready his
trunks for the same evening. But at the last moment he had given
counter-orders, saying that he had reconsidered, and would not go.

"There is something extraordinary going on in the mind of the
marquis," said the servants to each other.

The fact is, he spent his days, and a part of his nights, in his
cabinet, half-buried in an arm-chair, resting little, and sleeping
still less, insensible to all that went on around him. On his table he
had arranged all his letters from Sauveterre in order; and he read and
re-read them incessantly, examining the phrases, and trying, ever in
vain, to disengage the truth from this mass of details and statements.
He was no longer as sure of his son as at first: far from it! Every
day had brought him a new doubt; every letter, additional uncertainty.
Hence he was all the time a prey to most harassing apprehensions. He
put them aside; but they returned, stronger and more irresistible than
before like the waves of the rising tide.

He was thus one morning in his cabinet. It was very early yet; but he
was more than ever suffering from anxiety, for M. Folgat had written,
"To-morrow all uncertainty will end. To-morrow the close confinement
will be raised, and M. Jacques will see M. Magloire, the counsel whom
he has chosen. We will write immediately."

It was for this news the marquis was waiting now. Twice already he had
rung to inquire if the mail had not come yet, when all of a sudden his
valet appeared and with a frightened air said,--

"The marchioness. She has just come with Anthony, M. Jacques's own

He hardly said so, when the marchioness herself entered, looking even
worse than she had done in the prison parlor; for she was overcome by
the fatigue of a night spent on the road.

The marquis had started up suddenly. As soon as the servant had left
the room, and shut the door again, he said with trembling voice, as if
wishing for an answer, and still fearing to hear it,--

"Has any thing unusual happened?"


"Good or bad?"


"Great God! Jacques has not confessed?"

"How could he confess when he is innocent?"

"Then he has explained?"

"As far as I am concerned, and M. Folgat, Dr. Seignebos, and all who
know him and love him, yes, but not for the public, for his enemies,
or the law. He has explained every thing; but he has no proof."

The mournful features of the marquis settled into still deeper gloom.

"In other words, he has to be believed on his own word?" he asked.

"Don't you believe him?"

"I am not the judge of that, but the jury."

"Well, for the jury he will find proof. M. Folgat, who has come in the
same train with me, and whom you will see to-day, hopes to discover

"Proof of what?"

Perhaps the marchioness was not unprepared for such a reception. She
expected it, and still she was disconcerted.

"Jacques," she began, "has been the lover of the Countess Claudieuse."

"Ah, ah!" broke in the marquis.

And, in a tone of offensive irony, he added,--

"No doubt another story of adultery; eh?"

The marchioness did not answer. She quietly went on,--

"When the countess heard of Jacques's marriage, and that he abandoned
her, she became exasperated, and determined to be avenged."

"And, in order to be avenged, she attempted to murder her husband;

"She wished to be free."

The Marquis de Boiscoran interrupted his wife with a formidable oath.
Then he cried,--

"And that is all Jacques could invent! And to come to such an abortive
story--was that the reason of his obstinate silence?"

"You do not let me finish. Our son is the victim of unparalleled

"Of course! Unparalleled coincidences! That is what every one of the
thousand or two thousand rascals say who are sentenced every year. Do
you think they confess? Not they! Ask them, and they will prove to you
that they are the victims of fate, of some dark plot, and, finally, of
an error of judgment. As if justice could err in these days of ours,
after all these preliminary examinations, long inquiries, and careful

"You will see M. Folgat. He will tell you what hope there is."

"And if all hope fails?"

The marchioness hung her head.

"All would not be lost yet. But then we should have to endure the pain
of seeing our son brought up in court."

The tall figure of the old gentleman had once more risen to its full
height; his face grew red; and the most appalling wrath flashed from
his eyes.

"Jacques brought up in court?" he cried, with a formidable voice. "And
you come and tell me that coolly, as if it were a very simple and
quite natural matter! And what will happen then, if he is in court? He
will be condemned; and a Boiscoran will go to the galleys. But no,
that cannot be! I do not say that a Boiscoran may not commit a crime,
passion makes us do strange things; but a Boiscoran, when he regains
his senses, knows what becomes him to do. Blood washes out all stains.
Jacques prefers the executioner; he waits; he is cunning; he means to
plead. If he but save his head, he is quite content. A few years at
hard labor, I suppose, will be a trifle to him. And that coward should
be a Boiscoran: my blood should flow in his veins! Come, come, madam,
Jacques is no son of mine."

Crushed as the marchioness had seemed to be till now, she rose under
this atrocious insult.

"Sir!" she cried.

But M. de Boiscoran was not in a state to listen to her.

"I know what I am saying," he went on. "I remember every thing, if you
have forgotten every thing. Come, let us go back to your past.
Remember the time when Jacques was born, and tell me what year it was
when M. de Margeril refused to meet me."

Indignation restored to the marchioness her strength. She cried,--

"And you come and tell me this to-day, after thirty years, and God
knows under what circumstances!"

"Yes, after thirty years. Eternity might pass over these
recollections, and it would not efface them. And, but for these
circumstances to which you refer, I should never have said any thing.
At the time to which I allude, I had to choose between two evils,--
either to be ridiculous, or to be hated. I preferred to keep silence,
and not to inquire too far. My happiness was gone; but I wished to
save my peace. We have lived together on excellent terms; but there
has always been between us this high wall, this suspicion. As long as
I was doubtful, I kept silent. But now, when the facts confirm my
doubts, I say again, 'Jacques is no son of mine!' "

Overcome with grief, shame, and indignation, the Marchioness de
Boiscoran was wringing her hands; then she cried,--

"What a humiliation! What you are saying is too horrible. It is
unworthy of you to add this terrible suffering to the martyrdom which
I am enduring."

M. de Boiscoran laughed convulsively.

"Have I brought about this catastrophe?"

"Well then yes! One day I was imprudent and indiscreet. I was young; I
knew nothing of life; the world worshipped me; and you, my husband, my
guide, gave yourself up to your ambition, and left me to myself. I
could not foresee the consequences of a very inoffensive piece of

"You see, then, now these consequences. After thirty years, I disown
the child that bears my name; and I say, that, if he is innocent, he
suffers for his mother's sins. Fate would have it that your son should
covet his neighbor's wife, and, having taken her, it is but justice
that he should die the death of the adulterer."

"But you know very well that I have never forgotten my duty."

"I know nothing."

"You have acknowledged it, because you refused to hear the explanation
which would have justified me."

"True, I did shrink from an explanation, which, with your unbearable
pride, would necessarily have led to a rupture, and thus to a fearful

The marchioness might have told her husband, that, by refusing to hear
her explanation, he had forfeited all right to utter a reproach; but
she felt it would be useless, and thus he went on,--

"All I do know is, that there is somewhere in this world a man whom I
wanted to kill. Gossiping people betrayed his name to me. I went to
him, and told him that I demanded satisfaction, and that I hoped he
would conceal the real reason for our encounter even from our seconds.
He refused to give me satisfaction, on the ground that he did not owe
me any, that you had been calumniated, and that he would meet me only
if I should insult him publicly."


"What could I do after that? Investigate the matter? You had no doubt
taken your precautions, and it would have amounted to nothing. Watch
you? I should only have demeaned myself uselessly; for you were no
doubt on your guard. Should I ask for a divorce? The law afforded me
that remedy. I might have dragged you into court, held you up to the
sarcasms of my counsel, and exposed you to the jests of your own. I
had a right to humble you, to dishonor my name, to proclaim your
disgrace, to publish it in the newspapers. Ah, I would have died

The marchioness seemed to be puzzled.

"That was the explanation of your conduct?"

"Yes, that was my reason for giving up public life, ambitious as I
was. That was the reason why I withdrew from the world; for I thought
everybody smiled as I passed. That is why I gave up to you the
management of our house and the education of your son, why I became a
passionate collector, a half-mad original. And you find out only
to-day that you have ruined my life?"

There was more compassion than resentment in the manner in which the
marchioness looked at her husband.

"You had mentioned to me your unjust suspicions," she replied; "but I
felt strong in my innocence, and I was in hope that time and my
conduct would efface them."

"Faith once lost never comes back again."

"The fearful idea that you could doubt of your paternity had never
even occurred to me."

The marquis shook his head.

"Still it was so," he replied. "I have suffered terribly. I loved
Jacques. Yes, in spite of all, in spite of myself, I loved him. Had he
not all the qualities which are the pride and the joy of a family? Was
he not generous and noble-hearted, open to all lofty sentiments,
affectionate, and always anxious to please me? I never had to complain
of him. And even lately, during this abominable war, has he not again
shown his courage, and valiantly earned the cross which they gave him?
At all times, and from all sides, I have been congratulated on his
account. They praised his talents and his assiduity. Alas! at the very
moment when they told me what a happy father I was, I was the most
wretched of men. How many times would I have drawn him to my heart!
But immediately that terrible doubt rose within me, if he should not
be my son; and I pushed him back, and looked in his features for a
trace of another man's features."

His wrath had cooled down, perhaps by its very excess.

He felt a certain tenderness in his heart, and sinking into his chair,
and hiding his face in his hands, he murmured,--

"If he should be my son, however; if he should be innocent! Ah, this
doubt is intolerable! And I who would not moved from here,--I who have
done nothing for him,--I might have done every thing at first. It
would have been easy for me to obtain a change of venue to free him
from this Galpin, formerly his friend, and now his enemy."

M. de Boiscoran was right when he said that his wife's pride was
unmanageable. And still, as cruelly wounded as woman well could be,
she now suppressed her pride, and, thinking only of her son, remained
quite humble. Drawing from her bosom the letter which Jacques had sent
to her the day before she left Sauveterre, she handed it to her
husband, saying,--

"Will you read what our son says?"

The marquis's hand trembled as he took the letter; and, when he had
torn it open, he read,--

"Do you forsake me too, father, when everybody forsakes me? And yet
I have never needed your love as much as now. The peril is
imminent. Every thing is against me. Never has such a combination
of fatal circumstances been seen before. I may not be able to
prove my innocence; but you,--you surely cannot think your son
guilty of such an absurd and heinous crime! Oh, no! surely not. My
mind is made up. I shall fight to the bitter end. To my last
breath I shall defend, not my life, but my honor. Ah, if you but
knew! But there are things which cannot be written, and which only
a father can be told. I beseech you come to me, let me see you,
let me hold your hand in mine. Do not refuse this last and
greatest comfort to your unhappy son."

The marquis had started up.

"Oh, yes, very unhappy indeed!" he cried.

And, bowing to his wife, he said,--

"I interrupted you. Now, pray tell me all."

Maternal love conquered womanly resentment. Without a shadow of
hesitation, and as if nothing had taken place, the marchioness gave
her husband the whole of Jacques's statement as he had made it to M.

The marquis seemed to be amazed.

"That is unheard of!" he said.

And, when his wife had finished, he added,--

"That was the reason why Jacques was so very angry when you spoke of
inviting the Countess Claudieuse, and why he told you, that, if he saw
her enter at one door, he would walk out of the other. We did not
understand his aversion."

"Alas! it was not aversion. Jacques only obeyed at that time the
cunning lessons given him by the countess."

In less than one minute the most contradictory resolutions seemed to
flit across the marquis's face. He hesitated, and at last he said,--

"Whatever can be done to make up for my inaction, I will do. I will go
to Sauveterre. Jacques must be saved. M. de Margeril is all-powerful.
Go to him. I permit it. I beg you will do it."

The eyes of the marchioness filled with tears, hot tears, the first
she had shed since the beginning of this scene.

"Do you not see," she asked, "that what you wish me to do is now
impossible? Every thing, yes, every thing in the world but that. But
Jacques and I--we are innocent. God will have pity on us. M. Folgat
will save us."


M. Folgat was already at work. He had confidence in his cause, a firm
conviction of the innocence of his client, a desire to solve the
mystery, a love of battle, and an intense thirst for success: all
these motives combined to stimulate the talents of the young advocate,
and to increase his activity.

And, above all this, there was a mysterious and indefinable sentiment
with which Dionysia had inspired him; for he had succumbed to her
charms, like everybody else. It was not love, for he who says love
says hope; and he knew perfectly well that altogether and forever
Dionysia belonged to Jacques. It was a sweet and all-powerful
sentiment, which made him wish to devote himself to her, and to count
for something in her life and in her happiness.

It was for her sake that he had sacrificed all his business, and
forgotten his clients, in order to stay at Sauveterre. It was for her
sake, above all, that he wished to save Jacques.

He had no sooner arrived at the station, and left the Marchioness de
Boiscoran in old Anthony's care, than he jumped into a cab, and had
himself driven to his house. He had sent a telegram the day before;
and his servant was waiting for him. In less than no time he had
changed his clothes. Immediately he went back to his carriage, and
went in search of the man, who, he thought, was most likely to be able
to fathom this mystery.

This was a certain Goudar, who was connected with the police
department in some capacity or other, and at all events received an
income large enough to make him very comfortable. He was one of those
agents for every thing whom the police keep employed for specially
delicate operations, which require both tact and keen scent, an
intrepidity beyond all doubt, and imperturbable self-possession. M.
Folgat had had opportunities of knowing and appreciating him in the
famous case of the Mutual Discount Society.

He was instructed to track the cashier who had fled, having a deficit
of several millions. Goudar had caught him in Canada, after pursuing
him for three months all over America; but, on the day of his arrest,
this cashier had in his pocket-book and his trunk only some forty
thousand francs.

What had become of the millions?

When he was questioned, he said he had spent them. He had gambled in
stocks, he had become unfortunate, etc.

Everybody believed him except Goudar.

Stimulated by the promise of a magnificent reward, he began his
campaign once more; and, in less than six weeks, he had gotten hold of
sixteen hundred thousand francs which the cashier had deposited in
London with a woman of bad character.

The story is well known; but what is not known is the genius, the
fertility of resources, and the ingenuity of expedients, which Goudar
displayed in obtaining such a success. M. Folgat, however, was fully
aware of it; for he had been the counsel of the stockholders of the
Mutual Discount Society; and he had vowed, that, if ever the
opportunity should come, he would employ this marvellously able man.

Goudar, who was married, and had a child, lived out of the world on
the road to Versailles, not far from the fortifications. He occupied
with his family a small house which he owned,--a veritable
philosopher's home, with a little garden in front, and a vast garden
behind, in which he raised vegetables and admirable fruit, and where
he kept all kinds of animals.

When M. Folgat stepped out of his carriage before this pleasant home,
a young woman of twenty-five or twenty-six, of surpassing beauty,
young and fresh, was playing in the front garden with a little girl of
three or four years, all milk and roses.

"M. Goudar, madam?" asked M. Folgat, raising his hat.

The young woman blushed slightly, and answered modestly, but without
embarrassment, and in a most pleasing voice,--

"My husband is in the garden; and you will find him, if you will walk
down this path around the house."

The young man followed the direction, and soon saw his man at a
distance. His head covered with an old straw hat, without a coat, and
in slippers, with a huge blue apron such as gardeners wear, Goudar had
climbed up a ladder, and was busy dropping into a horsehair bag the
magnificent Chasselas grapes of his trellises. When he heard the sand
grate under the footsteps of the newcomer, he turned his head, and at
once said,--

"Why, M. Folgat? Good morning, sir!"

The young advocate was not a little surprised to see himself
recognized so instantaneously. He should certainly never have
recognized the detective. It was more than three years since they had
seen each other; and how often had they seen each other then? Twice,
and not an hour each time.

It is true that Goudar was one of those men whom nobody remembers. Of
middle height, he was neither stout nor thin, neither dark nor light
haired, neither young nor old. A clerk in a passport office would
certainly have written him down thus: Forehead, ordinary; nose,
ordinary; mouth, ordinary, eyes, neutral color; special marks, none.

It could not be said that he looked stupid; but neither did he look
intelligent. Every thing in him was ordinary, indifferent, and
undecided. Not one marked feature. He would necessarily pass
unobserved, and be forgotten as soon as he had passed.

"You find me busy securing my crops for the winter," he said to M.
Folgat. "A pleasant job. However, I am at your service. Let me put
these three bunches into their three bags, and I'll come down."

This was the work of an instant; and, as soon as he had reached the
ground, he turned round, and asked,--

"Well, and what do you think of my garden?"

And at once he begged M. Folgat to visit his domain, and, with all the
enthusiasm of the land-owner, he praised the flavor of his duchess
pears, the bright colors of his dahlias, the new arrangements in his
poultry-yard, which was full of rabbit-houses, and the beauty of his
pond, with its ducks of all colors and all possible varieties.

In his heart, M. Folgat swore at this enthusiasm. What time he was
losing! But, when you expect a service from a man, you must, at least,
flatter his weak side. He did not spare praise, therefore. He even
pulled out his cigar-case, and, still with a view to win the great
man's good graces, he offered it to him, saying,--

"Can I offer you one?"

"Thanks! I never smoke," replied Goudar.

And, when he saw the astonishment of the advocate, he explained,--

"At least not at home. I am disposed to think the odor is unpleasant
to my wife."

Positively, if M. Folgat had not known the man, he would have taken
him for some good and simple retired grocer, inoffensive, and any
thing but bright, and, bowing to him politely, he would have taken his
leave. But he had seen him at work; and so he followed him obediently
to his greenhouse, his melon-house, and his marvellous asparagus-beds.

At last Goudar took his guest to the end of the garden, to a bower in
which were some chairs and a table, saying,--

"Now let us sit down, and tell me your business; for I know you did
not come solely for the pleasure of seeing my domain."

Goudar was one of those men who have heard in their lives more
confessions than ten priests, ten lawyers, and ten doctors all
together. You could tell him every thing. Without a moment's
hesitation, therefore, and without a break, M. Folgat told him the
whole story of Jacques and the Countess Claudieuse. He listened,
without saying a word, without moving a muscle in his face. When the
lawyer had finished, he simply said,--


"First of all," replied M. Folgat, "I should like to hear your
opinion. Do you believe the statement made by M. de Boiscoran?"

"Why not? I have seen much stranger cases than that."

"Then you think, that, in spite of the charges brought against him, we
must believe in his innocence?"

"Pardon me, I think nothing at all. Why, you must study a matter
before you can have an opinion."

He smiled; and, looking at the young advocate, he said,--

"But why all these preliminaries? What do you want of me?"

"Your assistance to get at the truth."

The detective evidently expected something of the kind. After a
minute's reflection, he looked fixedly at M. Folgat, and said,--

"If I understand you correctly, you would like to begin a counter-
investigation for the benefit of the defence?"


"And unknown to the prosecution?"


"Well, I cannot possibly serve you."

The young advocate knew too well how such things work not to be
prepared for a certain amount of resistance; and he had thought of
means to overcome it.

"That is not your final decision, my dear Goudar?" he said.

"Pardon me. I am not my own master. I have my duty to fulfil, and my
daily occupation."

"You can at any time obtain leave of absence for a month."

"So I might; but they would certainly wonder at such a furlough at
headquarters. They would probably have me watched; and, if they found
out that I was doing police work for private individuals, they would
scold me grievously, and deprive themselves henceforth of my


"There is no 'oh!' about it. They would do what I tell you, and they
would be right; for, after all, what would become of us, and what
would become of the safety and liberty of us all, if any one could
come and use the agents of the police for his private purposes? And
what would become of me if I should lose my place?"

"M. de Boiscoran's family is very rich, and they would prove their
gratitude magnificently to the man who would save him."

"And if I did not save him? And if, instead of gathering proof of his
innocence, I should only meet with more evidence of his guilt?"

The objection was so well founded, that M. Folgat preferred not to
discuss it.

"I might," he said, "hand you at once, and as a retainer, a
considerable sum, which you could keep, whatever the result might be."

"What sum? A hundred Napoleons? Certainly a hundred Napoleons are not
to be despised; but what would they do for me if I were turned out? I
have to think of somebody else besides myself. I have a wife and a
child; and my whole fortune consists in this little cottage, which is
not even entirely paid for. My place is not a gold-mine; but, with the
special rewards which I receive, it brings me, good years and bad
years, seven or eight thousand francs, and I can lay by two or three

The young lawyer stopped him by a friendly gesture, and said,--

"If I were to offer you ten thousand francs?"

"A year's income."

"If I offered you fifteen thousand!"

Goudar made no reply; but his eyes spoke.

"It is a most interesting case, this case of M. de Boiscoran,"
continued M. Folgat, "and such as does not occur often. The man who
should expose the emptiness of the accusation would make a great
reputation for himself."

"Would he make friends also at the bar?"

"I admit he would not."

The detective shook his head.

"Well, I confess," he said, "I do not work for glory, nor from love of
my art. I know very well that vanity is the great motive-power with
some of my colleagues; but I am more practical. I have never liked my
profession; and, if I continue to practise it, it is because I have
not the money to go into any other. It drives my wife to despair,
besides: she is only half alive as long as I am away; and she trembles
every morning for fear I may be brought home with a knife between my

M. Folgat had listened attentively; but at the same time he had pulled
out a pocket-book, which looked decidedly plethoric, and placed it on
the table.

"With fifteen thousand francs," he said, "a man may do something."

"That is true. There is a piece of land for sale adjoining my garden,
which would suit me exactly. Flowers bring a good price in Paris, and
that business would please my wife. Fruit, also yields a good profit."

The advocate knew now that he had caught his man.

"Remember, too, my dear Goudar, that, if you succeed, these fifteen
thousand francs would only be a part payment. They might, perhaps,
double the sum. M. de Boiscoran is the most liberal of men, and he
would take pleasure in royally rewarding the man who should have saved

As he spoke, he opened the pocket-book, and drew from it fifteen
thousand-franc notes, which he spread out on the table.

"To any one but to you," he went on, "I should hesitate to pay such a
sum in advance. Another man might take the money, and never trouble
himself about the affair. But I know your uprightness; and, if you
give me your word in return for the notes, I shall be satisfied. Come,
shall it be so?"

The detective was evidently not a little excited; for, self-possessed
as he was, he had turned somewhat pale. He hesitated, handled the
bank-notes, and then, all of a sudden, said,--

"Wait two minutes."

He got up instantly, and ran towards the house.

"Is he going to consult his wife?" M. Folgat asked himself.

He did so; for the next moment they appeared at the other end of the
walk, engaged in a lively discussion. However, the discussion did not
last long. Goudar came back to the bower, and said,--

"Agreed! I am your man!"

The advocate was delighted, and shook his hand.

"Thank you!" he cried; "for, with your assistance, I am almost sure of
success. Unfortunately, we have no time to lose. When can you go to

"This moment. Give me time to change my costume; and I am at your
service. You will have to give me the keys of the house in Passy."

"I have them here in my pocket."

"Well, then let us go there at once; for I must, first of all,
reconnoitre the ground. And you shall see if it takes me long to

In less than fifteen minutes he reappeared in a long overcoat, with
gloves on, looking, for all the world, like one of those retired
grocers who have made a fortune, and settled somewhere outside of the
corporation of Paris, displaying their idleness in broad daylight, and
repenting forever that they have given up their occupation.

"Let us go," he said to the lawyer.

After having bowed to Mrs. Goudar, who accompanied them with a radiant
smile, they got into the carriage, calling out to the driver,--

"Vine Street, Passy, No. 23."

This Vine Street is a curious street, leading nowhere, little known,
and so deserted, that the grass grows everywhere. It stretches out
long and dreary, is hilly, muddy, scarcely paved, and full of holes,
and looks much more like a wretched village lane than like a street
belonging to Paris. No shops, only a few homes, but on the right and
the left interminable walls, overtopped by lofty trees.

"Ah! the place is well chosen for mysterious rendezvouses," growled
Goudar. "Too well chosen, I dare say; for we shall pick up no
information here."

The carriage stopped before a small door, in a thick wall, which bore
the traces of the two sieges in a number of places.

"Here is No. 23," said the driver; "but I see no house."

It could not be seen from the street; but, when they got in, Mr.
Folgat and Goudar saw it, rising in the centre of an immense garden,
simple and pretty, with a double porch, a slate roof, and newly-
painted blinds.

"Great God!" exclaimed the detective, "what a place for a gardener!"

And M. Folgat felt so keenly the man's ill-concealed desire, that he
at once said,--

"If we save M. de Boiscoran, I am sure he will not keep this house."

"Let us go in," cried the detective, in a voice which revealed all his
intense desire to succeed.

Unfortunately, Jacques de Boiscoran had spoken but too truly, when he
said that no trace was left of former days. Furniture, carpets, all
was new; and Goudar and M. Folgat in vain explored the four rooms down
stairs, and the four rooms up stairs, the basement, where the kitchen
was, and finally the garret.

"We shall find nothing here," declared the detective. "To satisfy my
conscience, I shall come and spend an afternoon here; but now we have
more important business. Let us go and see the neighbors!"

There are not many neighbors in Vine Street.

A teacher and a nurseryman, a locksmith and a liveryman, five or six
owners of houses, and the inevitable keeper of a wine-shop and
restaurant, these were the whole population.

"We shall soon make the rounds," said Goudar, after having ordered the
coachman to wait for them at the end of the street.

Neither the head master nor his assistants knew any thing. The
nurseryman had heard it said that No. 23 belonged to an Englishman;
but he had never seen him, and did not even know his name.

The locksmith knew that he was called Francis Burnett. He had done
some work for him, for which he had been well paid, and thus he had
frequently seen him; but it was so long since, that he did not think
he would recognize him.

"We are unlucky," said M. Folgat, after this visit.

The memory of the liveryman was more trustworthy. He said he knew the
Englishman of No. 23 very well, having driven him three or four times;
and the description he gave of him answered fully to Jacques de
Boiscoran. He also remembered that one evening, when the weather was
wretched, Sir Burnett had come himself to order a carriage. It was for
a lady, who had got in alone, and who had been driven to the Place de
la Madeleine. But it was a dark night; the lady wore a thick veil; he
had not been able to distinguish her features, and all he could say
was that she looked above medium height.

"It is always the same story," said Goudar. "But the wine-merchant
ought to be best informed. If I were alone I would breakfast there."

"I shall breakfast with you," said M. Folgat.

They did so, and they did wisely.

The wine-merchant did not know much; but his waiter, who had been with
him five or six years, knew Sir Burnett, as everybody called the
Englishman, by sight, and was quite well acquainted with the servant-
girl, Suky Wood. While he was bringing in breakfast, he told them all
he knew.

Suky, he said, was a tall, strapping girl, with hair red enough to set
her bonnets on fire, and graceful enough to be mistaken for a heavy
dragoon in female disguise. He had often had long talks with her when
she came to fetch some ready-made dish, or to buy some beer, of which
she was very fond. She told him she was very pleased with her place,
as she got plenty of money, and had, so to say, nothing to do, being
left alone in the house for nine months in the year. From her the
waiter had also learned that Sir Burnett must have another house, and
that he came to Vine Street only to receive visits from a lady.

This lady troubled Suky very much. She declared she had never been
able to see the end of her nose even, so very cautious was she in all
her movements; but she intended to see her in spite of all.

"And you may be sure she managed to do it some time or other," Goudar
whispered into M. Folgat's ear.

Finally they learned from this waiter, that Suky had been very
intimate with the servant of an old gentleman who lived quite alone in
No. 27.

"We must see her," said Goudar.

Luckily the girl's master had just gone out, and she was alone in the
house. At first she was a little frightened at being called upon and
questioned by two unknown men; but the detective knew how to reassure
her very quickly, and, as she was a great talker, she confirmed all
the waiter at the restaurant had told them, and added some details.

Suky had been very intimate with her; she had never hesitated to tell
her that Burnett was not an Englishman; that his name was not Burnett,
and that he was concealing himself in Vine Street under a false name,
for the purpose of meeting there his lady-love, who was a grand, fine
lady, and marvellously beautiful. Finally, at the outbreak of the war,
Suky had told her that she was going back to England to her relations.
When they left the old bachelor's house, Goudar said to the young

"We have obtained but little information, and the jurymen would pay
little attention to it; but there is enough of it to confirm, at least
in part, M. de Boiscoran's statement. We can prove that he met a lady
here who had the greatest interest in remaining unknown. Was this, as
he says, the Countess Claudieuse? We might find this out from Suky;
for she has seen her, beyond all doubt. Hence we must hunt up Suky.
And now, let us take our carriage, and go to headquarters. You can
wait for me at the café near the Palais de Justice. I shall not be
away more than a quarter of an hour."

It took him, however, a good hour and a half; M. Folgat was beginning
to be troubled, when he at last reappeared, looking very well pleased.

"Waiter, a glass of beer!" he said.

And, sitting down so as to face the advocate, he said,--

"I stayed away rather long; but I did not lose any time. In the first
place, I procured a month's leave of absence; then I put my hand upon
the very man whom I wanted to send after Sir Burnett and Miss Suky. He
is a good fellow, called Barousse, fine like a needle, and speaks
English like a native. He demands twenty-five francs a day, his
travelling-expenses, and a gratuity of fifteen hundred francs if he
succeeds. I have agreed to meet him at six to give him a definite
answer. If you accept the conditions, he will leave for England
to-night, well drilled by me."

Instead of any answer, M. Folgat drew from his pocket-book a thousand-
franc note, and said,--

"Here is something to begin with."

Goudar had finished his beer, and said,--

"Well, then, I must leave you. I am going to hang abut M. de Tassar's
house, and make my inquiries. Perhaps I may pick up something there.
To-morrow I shall spend my day in searching the house in Vine Street
and in questioning all the tradesmen on your list. The day after
to-morrow I shall probably have finished here. So that in four or five
days there will arrive in Sauveterre a somebody, who will be myself."
And as he got up, he added,--

"For I must save M. de Boiscoran. I will and I must do it. He has too
nice a house. Well, we shall see each other at Sauveterre."

It struck four o'clock. M. Folgat left the café immediately after
Goudar, and went down the river to University Street. He was anxious
to see the marquis and the marchioness.

"The marchioness is resting," said the valet; "but the marquis is in
his cabinet."

M. Folgat was shown in, and found him still under the effects of the
terrible scene he had undergone in the morning. He had said nothing to
his wife that he did not really think; but he was distressed at having
said it under such circumstances. And yet he felt a kind of relief;
for, to tell the truth, he felt as if the horrible doubts which he had
kept secret so many years had vanished as soon as they were spoken
out. When he saw M. Folgat, he asked in a sadly-changed voice,--


The young advocate repeated in detail the account given by the
marchioness; but he added what the latter had not been able to
mention, because she did not know it, the desperate resolution which
Jacques had formed. At this revelation the marquis looked utterly

"The unhappy man!" he cried. "And I accused him of-- He thought of
killing himself!"

"And we had a great trouble, M. Magloire, and myself," added M.
Folgat, "to overcome his resolution, great trouble to make him
understand, that never, under any circumstances, ought an innocent man
to think of committing suicide."

A big tear rolled down the furrowed cheek of the old gentleman; and he

"Ah! I have been cruelly unjust. Poor, unhappy child!"

Then he added aloud,--

"But I shall see him. I have determined to accompany the marchioness
to Sauveterre. When will you leave?"

"Nothing keeps me here in Paris. I have done all that could be done,
and I might return this evening. But I am really too tired. I think I
shall to-morrow take the train at 10.45."

"If you do so, we shall travel in company; you understand? To-morrow
at ten o'clock at the Orleans station. We shall reach Sauveterre by


When the Marchioness de Boiscoran, on the day of her departure for
Paris, had gone to see her son, Dionysia had asked her to let her go
with her. She resisted, and the young girl did not insist.

"I see they are trying to conceal something from me," she said simply;
"but it does not matter."

And she had taken refuge in the sitting-room; and there, taking her
usual seat, as in the happy days when Jacques spent all his evenings
by her side, she had remained long hours immovable, looking as if,
with her mind's eye, she was following invisible scenes far away.

Grandpapa Chandore and the two aunts were indescribably anxious. They
knew their Dionysia, their darling child, better than she knew
herself, having nursed and watched her for twenty years. They knew
every expression of her face, every gesture, every intonation of
voice, and could almost read her thoughts in her features.

"Most assuredly Dionysia is meditating upon something very serious,"
they said. "She is evidently calculating and preparing for a great

The old gentleman thought so too, and asked her repeatedly,--

"What are you thinking of, dear child?"

"Of nothing, dear papa," she replied.

"You are sadder than usual: why are you so?"

"Alas! How do I know? Does anybody know why one day we have sunshine
in our hearts, and another day dismal clouds?"

But the next day she insisted upon being taken to her seamstresses,
and finding Mechinet, the clerk, there, she remained a full half-hour
in conference with him. Then, in the evening, when Dr. Seignebos,
after a short visit, was leaving the room, she lay in wait for him,
and kept him talking a long time at the door. Finally, the day after,
she asked once more to be allowed to go and see Jacques. They could no
longer refuse her this sad satisfaction; and it was agreed that the
older of the two Misses Lavarande, Miss Adelaide, should accompany

About two o'clock on that day they knocked at the prison-door, and
asked the jailer, who had come to open the door, to let them see

"I'll go for him at once, madam," replied Blangin. "In the meantime
pray step in here: the parlor is rather damp, and the less you stay in
it, the better it will be."

Dionysia did so, or rather, she did a great deal more; for, leaving
her aunt down stairs, she drew Mrs. Blangin to the upper room, having
something to say to her, as she pretended.

When they came down again, Blangin told them that M. de Boiscoran was
waiting for them.

"Come!" said the young girl to her aunt.

But she had not taken ten steps in the long narrow passage which led
to the parlor, when she stopped. The damp which fell from the vaulted
ceiling like a pall upon her, and the emotions which were agitating
her heart, combined to overwhelm her. She tottered, and had to lean
against the wall, reeking as it was with wet and with saltpetre.

"O Lord, you are ill!" cried Miss Adelaide.

Dionysia beckoned to her to be silent.

"Oh, it is nothing!" she said. "Be quiet!"

And gathering up all her strength, and putting her little hand upon
the old lady's shoulder, she said,--

"My darling aunty, you must render us an immense service. It is all
important that I should speak to Jacques alone. It would be very
dangerous for us to be overheard. I know they often set spies to
listen to prisoners' talk. Do please, dear aunt, remain here in the
passage, and give us warning, if anybody should come."

"You do not think of it, dear child. Would it be proper?"

The young girl stopped her again.

"Was it proper when I came and spent a night here? Alas! in our
position, every thing is proper that may be useful."

And, as Aunt Lavarande made no reply, she felt sure of her perfect
submission, and went on towards the parlor.

"Dionysia!" cried Jacques as soon as she entered,--"Dionysia!"

He was standing in the centre of this mournful hall, looking whiter
than the whitewash on the wall, but apparently calm, and almost
smiling. The violence with which he controlled himself was horrible.
But how could he allow his betrothed to see his despair? Ought he not,
on the contrary, do every thing to reassure her?

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